For centuries, religious buildings have been centers of neighborhoods and landmarks in those neighborhoods, providing services beyond prayer. That shows in plans before the Buffalo Preservation Board Thursday.
The board recommended to the Common Council that New Testament Revival Cathedral on Kensington Avenue near Bailey Avenue be recognized as a landmark, and that the Broadway-Fillmore area should be established as a historic district. If approved by the Council, that would include 248 buildings, with 230 of them contributing to the Broadway Fillmore Historic District.
What is now New Testament was built a century ago as Kensington Evangelical Lutheran Church. Kandice Drayton said the towering structure houses services needed in the neighborhood beyond Sunday morning.
"Spiritual enrichment and learning, but we have so many projects and programs that reach out to the community," said Drayton. "We have had the women's conferences that address domestic violence. We do have currently a pantry. We do have a computer lab that was open free of charge to the entire community."
The Broadway-Fillmore district grew out of the historic preservation efforts to save and restore Corpus Christi Church in the neighborhood, which turned into Historic East Side Neighborhood Initiative. President Jim Serafin said this will help turn around the image of a troubled community and give residents the economic benefits to help with individual buildings.
"It brings to me new hope to the East Side, gives a whole new image to the Broadway-Fillmore area," Serafin said. "You have a historic district. I don't think anybody ever thought of Broadway-Fillmore as having a historic district. That's like, 'What? Is that possible?' Someone called it the 'wow factor.' Now when you hear all of the stories about Broadway-Fillmore, they aren't the most positive story. However, now we have a story when you have 244 properties that now are qualfied and been recognized by SHPO as historically relevant."
SHPO is the State Historic Preservation Office, which is the state dragon at the gate for preservation designations and the resulting fiscal benefits. Preservation Buffalo Niagara's Christina Limniatis said this is a victory for residents.
"Finally, the residents of this neighborhood will have that voice and be a part of dictating their destiny," Limniatis said. "There's been so many decisions, planning decisions, made in this area without their involvement. So the local district will give them that option and, when once the certification is completed, they'll have access to those financial incentives, to those tax credits so they can improve their buildings on their own."